Working in the Japanese Public Education System

By: Todd Berozsky

If anyone reading this has shown any interest in Japanese society or school life, they most likely have come across many articles, memes or videos about school life in Japan. Most of them show Japanese school as a happy Disney like experience. That is somewhat true in the early elementary school years but I am going to focus more on structure, social issues and needed changes that are coming. For the most part it is in desperate need of modernization. Japans education system has a tendency to be misrepresented by people who write articles about it and have never set foot in a Japanese classroom, worked with educators in Japan or understand Japanese society. There is also a phenomenon of very opinionated people who come to Japan for a several year extended vacation and teach English to pay for it, skating on the surface of the education system and Japanese society.

I am not writing this to be critical or praise the education system here in Japan. I do not want to make comparisons to other countries or talk about statistics. I will give some facts on the matter and share my experiences. You should do your own research and/or draw your own conclusions later.

Upon coming to Japan with the intention of staying indefinitely, I needed a job. I did not speak Japanese and there were plenty of dispatch/outsourcing companies hiring warm bodies that spoke English. The company I worked for was borderline criminal. These companies supplied the majority of ALTs (Assistant Language Teacher) for public schools and still do illegally. Yes illegally! Many regulations in Japan are selectively enforced or have elaborate loopholes and that’s a great item for further discussion.